Sunday, June 23, 2013

Locally Owned Wind And Solar Will Build Support For Climate Policy

Just one link today. John Farrell hits it out of the park in his piece @ the Huffington Post -   “The One Thing Obama's Climate Policy Can't Leave Out”. Spoiler alert! It’s locally owned renewables. Though I’m not optimistic the administration will address barriers to local owned wind and solar, John’s correct about ownership building the necessary public support for climate policy in the U.S. It’s the ONLY way we will start to lower CO2 emissions here. John quotes  "Andrew Cumbers of the UN Research Institute for Social Development explains the ongoing strength of the Danish commitment to renewable energy:
“The participation of communities in the ownership and development of the technology has been a critical factor in the successful growth of renewable energy capacity. Surveys suggest around 70 per cent of the population are in favor of wind farms with only around 5 per cent against”.  

A lot of Midwest energy advocates (and their funders, for that matter) keep pushing for energy efficiency measures and utility scale renewables. The quote -   “whose bread I eat is whose song I sing”, (Thanks Ed Woolsey) often attributed to Warren Buffet, comes to mind.    I should just point out that the countries mentioned in the article are kicking our butts building wind and solar, so maybe we should consider adopting their local ownership ideas. But let’s look at the current approach favored by Midwest energy advocates a little deeper. 

Energy efficiency – I’m going to get into this in more detail soon, but for today, let’s consider this: Most climate scientists are advocating for an 80% reduction in co2 emissions.  Fellow energy advocate  Ed W. points out that the most optimistic projections of the percentage EE (energy efficiency) can lower co2 emissions is about 30%. Ed also notes that Iowa electric usage has grown by an average of just under 4% a year over the last 20 years.  It kind of looks like Energy efficiency will barely hold the line on co2 emissions. Since the math is not exactly working here, Maybe it’s time to discuss the best policy for getting a lot more renewable energy built in this country.  Don’t get me wrong, I’ve become keenly interested in EE since my solar PV system was installed. I’ll list some of the EE plans I have for our farm soon. 

However, some Midwest energy advocates still stubbornly cling to the mantra – “first everyone needs to do all the EE available before we talk renewables”.   Or “EE is the lowest cost method of reducing co2”.  With the current cost of solar PV, don’t bet on it. At any rate, I’m confident that this “EE first” message will prevail at conferences and nonprofit newsletters for the foreseeable future.  It’s encouraging to see a lot more folks supporting local owned wind and solar these days. But, loosely translated, Midwest advocates have been giving the public the message that they need to change their behavior, and spend _ sacrifice to help lower co2. Meanwhile, opportunities to invest in and benefit from wind and solar remain with Wall Street, not main street. Like Farrell, I hope the Obama administration has figured this out this strategy hasn’t been working too well. We’ll soon see.     

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